Felipe Massa believes Charles Leclerc is a more mature driver than fellow prodigy Max Verstappen and predicts that Ferrari will only improve for having signed the Monegasque for 2019. Leclerc has enjoyed an impressive debut campaign in F1 with Sauber, backing up a glittering junior career.
Entering F1 with GP3 and Formula 2 titles to his name, Leclerc has shone in F1, outqualifying Sauber team-mate Marcus Ericsson in all but three races this year – as well as outscoring the Swede 21 points to six.
Ferrari's decision o draft their junior driver to the main team remains a surprise, however, Leclerc will become the Scuderia's second youngest driver in their long F1 history when he debuts in Australia next year.
But Massa believes Ferrari have struck at the right time, predicting a bright future for the 20-year-old.
"They did well, besides the huge talent he also has an incredible head on his shoulders, in my opinion he is even more mature than Max Verstappen," Massa told Corriere della Sera.
"I am convinced that one day he will be able to become world champion. And together with Sebastian Vettel, they will push each other. Ferrari in 2019 will have a great driver pairing."
Ferrari have faded from title contention in recent weeks, with Vettel trailing Lewis Hamilton by 50 points and just five races remaining to make up the deficit.
Massa puts their recent form down to a defeat to Mercedes in the development race.
"I thought Ferrari was in with a chance, on many occasions they proved to have the better car, but then Mercedes developed the car better," Massa said
"Earlier they managed to score more points thanks to Ferrari’s mistakes, like at Hockenheim and Monza, but now they have a technical advantage.
"They also stay calm despite the lead they have on the table. They put zero pressure on Hamilton whose last three or four races have been incredible, phenomenal qualifying. Difficult to see anyone at his level."
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